Restart Sri Lanka

After 9 weeks of economic & social lockdown and restricted movement due to COVID-19, the island nation of Sri Lanka is opening up slowly and surely.

On May 26, 2020, Sri Lanka officially took its first steps into the “new normal” following 9 weeks of lockdown at the hands of the coronavirus. 2 weeks prior to this, the government began easing restrictions slightly by allowing employees of public and private sector companies to start working from offices in a limited capacity. To serve as an emphatic start to the new normal, a fancy TV spot with a renowned Sri Lankan sportsman and celebrity was even commissioned!

I don’t envy the dilemma governments are facing when it comes to reopening their respective economies. After all, the pandemic is far from over! Countries all over the world are still battling the first wave of infection with the looming threat of a second wave (and frighteningly, a third and so forth) becoming more and more likely.

Fortunately, Sri Lanka seems to be holding on with the curve largely flattened and the total number of cases just eclipsing 2,000 not too long ago. The daily fresh cases being reported are in the single digits in stark contrast to its South Asian neighbors India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan who are nearing, or are at, the apex of their first wave of infections.

As of today, most coronavirus restrictions have been lifted and most citizens & residents are allowed to return to their offices and even stay out without any curfew restrictions. Thankfully, the government is still promoting wearing face-covering in public as well as social distancing as much as possible. In fact, the police have now been empowered to arrest individuals who flout wearing a mask in public and subject offenders to a 14-day self-quarantine.

Social distancing being observed at my local utilities company

For the most part, things are back to “normal” (knock on wood) in the capital Colombo, at least. The once deserted streets are now buzzing with the sights and sounds of traffic and many businesses are coming back to life. The social nature of Sri Lankan society at large is also in full swing again with small gatherings and weddings of up to 100 people taking place once again, as well as beleaguered city dwellers being able to escape to the island’s various beach towns for some much-needed sun and sand.

I’m thankful that working remotely pre-lockdown with meant that my work life was largely unchanged but the removal of lockdown restrictions in Sri Lanka has done wonders to my state of mind because we can now fill the void of human connection by being able to visit with close friends and family in person and not over a video call.

Don’t get me wrong, the pandemic is still in full swing and I’m cautious about the fact that the worst is yet to come. But, for now, I’m going to enjoy a little bit of respite in my little island paradise. In the past 30 days, I’ve had two glorious haircuts, dined in some of my favorite restaurants, and even treated myself to some retail therapy at the local malls. While my plan is to largely stay in and reduce our exposure, having the option to have a meal at a restaurant or escape to one of the island’s beaches now and then really helps stave off cabin fever!

Tuk-tuks (Sri Lanka’s preferred mode of taxi transportation) now sport a protective plastic shield between the driver and passengers

Being grounded and not being able to travel internationally has been a tough adjustment personally (considering I registered over 50,000 traveled air miles last year) but my wife and I are looking forward to hitting the skies again and go on our honeymoon once it is safe to do so. The international airport here is planning to open up to tourists again sometime in August but you won’t see us packing our bags and jetting of until 2021, most likely.

In the meantime, I wish you, dear reader, safety and peace of mind in these unprecedented times. If there is anything I can help you with, please don’t hesitate to reach out. Lastly, please, please, please, wear a face covering when you are out in public. I can certainly understand that it may difficult to breathe in but I’m confident that the growing plethora of styles and fashions of face masks will lead to one that you can comfortably wear on your face for hours at a time if needed.

Pandemic inspired fashion at a local Colombo clothing store

Stay safe!!

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Nico Atienza

Chief Storyteller

An expat remote worker based in Colombo, Sri Lanka with a penchant for window seats on planes, travel, and technology that makes everyone’s lives easier.